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Wake up to eggs!

17/11/2011

New research from Cambridge University has found that going to work on an egg may be sound advice, as scientists have discovered that egg proteins help us stay awake and alert during the working day.

The study, published in the November 17 issue of the journal Neuron, suggests a cellular mechanism that may allow brain cells to translate different diets into different patterns of activity.

The study focused on specialised brain cells called orexin-hypocretin neurons.  Wakefulness and energy rely on signals transmitted by the cells.  Reduced orexin-hypocretin activity results in narcolepsy - a disorder marked by the sudden onset of sleep - and has been linked to weight gain.

The Cambridge team found that protein components of the type found in egg whites stimulated the neurons much more than other nutrients.  The amino acids appeared to stop glucose from blocking the cells.

Previous research had shown that too much glucose sugar suppresses orexin-hypocretin activity. One effect of this is believed to be after-meal sleepiness, as experienced during the "3pm slump".

"We found that activity in the orexin/hypocretin system is regulated by macronutrient balance rather than simply by the caloric content of the diet, suggesting that the brain contains not only energy-sensing cells, but also cells that can measure dietary balance," concludes senior study author, Dr. Denis Burdakov.

"Our data support the idea that the orexin/hypocretin neurons are under a 'push-pull' control by sugars and proteins. Interestingly, although behavioral effects are beyond the scope of our study, this cellular model is consistent with reports that when compared with sugar-rich meals, protein-rich meals are more effective at promoting wakefulness and arousal."

British Egg Information Service nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton says: "This study provides yet more proof that eggs are a superfood. As well as being rich in vitamins, minerals and protein, eggs make us feel fuller for longer after meals, thus helping with weight control. This latest study confirms the benefits of the special proteins found in eggs.  Another good reason to go to work on an egg!"